Montoro Says Spain May Seek Criminal Charges for Pujol Tax Fraud

Spanish Budget Minister Cristobal Montoro said he may press criminal tax-evasion charges against the former president of Catalonia, mixing the region’s independence campaign with a corruption inquiry.

Montoro said the July confession by Jordi Pujol, 84, of hiding money from national tax authorities was an attempt to deflect prosecutors probing his affairs.

“If someone like Mr. Pujol thought that by asking for forgiveness publicly he could clear the slate he was mistaken,” Montoro told the Spanish Parliament in Madrid today. “The Budget Ministry will go to the very end in the pursuit of tax fraud.”

Pujol’s admission that he hid an inheritance for more than 30 years has roiled politics in Catalonia. His protege, Artur Mas, the regional leader, plans a referendum on independence from Spain in November. Nationalists have argued that they would be better off running their own affairs, citing reports of corruption in Spain’s ruling People’s Party, including allegations against Montoro himself and Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. Montoro and Rajoy have both denied any wrongdoing.

“Not all taxpayers are equal, some of us have a greater responsibility with our tax obligations,” Montoro said. “I’m talking about those of us who hold or have held a public position in the service of the citizens.”

Pujol, Catalonia’s president from 1980 to 2003, said in a July letter to Spanish newspapers that he kept an inheritance he received from his father in 1980 in an account beyond the reach of tax authorities. That statement came 10 days after his son Oriol resigned as a lawmaker in the regional assembly and as a leader of Mas’s party following an accusation of receiving illegal commissions. Oriol Pujol denies any wrongdoing.

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